Over the weekend, I received a desperate email from a friend who was about to go into a 2nd interview with a firm, and she asked me this question:
“I have been asked to explain my short tenures over a series of jobs for the past three years. Help! What should I tell them?”
Oh my, I get this one A LOT. Here’s my reply:
As a recruiter, I would ask you the same question. Short tenures are often red flags. It is quite expensive to hire and train someone if they’re only planning on a short stay.
Answer honestly; were you not learning enough? Were the jobs temp in nature? You need to reassure the company that you’re a candidate that is looking for a “home” and plan on staying for a long time. They need to know that you are not going to leave after 6 months, so be prepared to discuss this issue.
Here’s the Real Deal
Job hoppers (I’m lookin’ at you Millennials) in general, are not “ideal” candidates in the eyes of the company, especially the HR Department. Do realize that one of HR functions is to save the company money, and act as a gate keeper. One of their missions is to reduce turnover and increase retention. So, they want to make GOOD HIRES. That means hiring candidates that are going to flourish and be assets for the company.
The Burden of Labor
Candidates with a track record of jumping from job-to-job or with long gaps in between gigs look like a risk. And HR is risk averse. The cost of hiring someone is their salary, PLUS the “Burden of Labor” which sounds pretty bad, eh? The “burden” part is the cost of recruiting, hiring, training, taxes and fees associated with employees (Federal, State, City and County taxes), and benefits. You can add 9-19% of your salary and that’s the cost to the company of hiring you.
Plan Your Answer
If you were spending that kind of money, per employee, you would want to hire dependable workers too! So, why take the risk of hiring a candidate with a jumpy work history, when the well is so deep at the moment (and maybe forever at this point)? If you make it to a FIRST interview, I am shocked! So, to get to the 2nd interview, you have done something right. Your job in the second round is to ease their concerns about your flight risk. You need a cogent explanation of your past job tenures, and a well thought out answer of why you plan on staying should you be offered the position.
Here’s what you do: WRITE out what you’re going to say. Read it out loud. More than once. Does it sound reasonable to you? If not, make some adjustments. Here are three reasons recruiters/Hiring Managers might understand:
3 Reasonable Explanations of “Why?”
“The job (or jobs) was (or were) a temp position in the first place and I worked for an agency that placed me in several temp positions for the past 3 years.”
“I had the unfortunate timing at these firms as they quickly downsized once I had been there for a brief period; last hired, first fired. I have endeavored to conduct deeper research on companies I interview with since then; hence, this interview.”
“Once I was in these jobs for a short period, I quickly realized I was not a good fit for them. In my journey since I graduated, I have had to pay my student loans, so work of any nature had to fit the bill. I have searched for a “home” where I can contribute and become a valued team member. I truly want my next position, hopefully this one, to be a long-lasting engagement.”
Job Hopping may have happened out of necessity or through no fault of your own, but you will have to answer for it at some point. Unless you start your own business!!
Do you have a career question? Send it to me Kristi.Enigl@gmail.com.
ps. Millennials – I love you no matter what! You may not stay at job for very long, so emphasize what you bring: innovation, sincerity and great attitudes!
I receive many questions about the do’s and don’ts of working with a recruiter, so here’s a blog post with my top 3 tips. Let me first disclose that I was a recruiter, and I still recruit now and then. I worked for a large global staffing firm for 2 years, and before that, I worked for a design firm where I recruited and hired staff at every level. I have recruited candidates at every level, from interns to Principals. So, rest assured, my advice is based on first-hand experience, but keep in mind, every recruiter is different. These tips are general guidelines.
1. Be a Perfect Match
One way to quickly get the attention of a recruiter is that your resume is a “perfect match” for one of the positions they are recruiting. That means you must customize your resume specifically for the job at hand, and make sure that the information is focused and easy to read. That means a resume that is accomplishment based and quantified.
2. Get Introduced
The single best way to get a recruiter interested in you is to get introduced by a former or current candidate of theirs. Recruiters are open to referrals, and often follow-up with those candidates first. If you have a colleague or friend that was recruited, ask them for an intro. Be sure to follow-up. Also, follow recruiters on Twitter, FB, and Linked In – they check out their followers.
3. Recruiters Work for their Clients
Recruiters are busy and have limited time. If you need a new resume, or interviewing tips, they are not going to select you for presentation to their clients. They want to work with total pros, which means that your must be on top of your game and industry. If you’re a job hopper, or have had numerous career twists and turns, or you won’t pass a credit or background check, you might not attract the interest of a recruiter. A lay-off is okay, as long as you’ve kept on top of things while unemployed.
Recruiters make money when they place candidates. So, if you’re a good fit for their open positions, they will be happy to work with you. But you need your A game!